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Reactions from Model S Beta?

Reactions from Model S Beta?

I'm interested in reactions from ONLY those who have had first hand experience with the Beta vehicle (in person). Here's my story, and a related one, that sort of explains my reason for asking:

As I'd mentioned in another post I had been excited about this car for some time. However, what I may not have mentioned was that I was somewhat on the fence. That was until a good friend, and reservation holder, invited me to go with him to the Model S beta event at the factory in October. This journey is what made up my mind that I absolutely had to have this car. Shortly after they showed the car at a local Tesla dealer, and I took my wife and daughter, and they were equally excited about it as I was. So this is where it gets interesting...

The reservation holder I went with was not as impressed as I was. He rode in the rear seat, and I was in the front passenger. He commented that the fit and finish was not up to par, and that this car would never be competitive against BMW (he's a rather big fan). I explained that this was a Beta vehicle, not a production car, and was going to be a bit rough. This didn't sway him. In fact in a later conversation his wife mentioned seeing the car at the dealer and had the same unimpressed feeling her husband did, and proceeded to try to talk me into a BMW (not interested, thank you).

My concern is this. For people outside of any industry where they might have first hand experience with "beta" products, what they are, and what they can look like compared to the final production release, this may be confusing for some.

Your thoughts?

Mycroft | 31. Dezember 2011

Yep, the interior of the beta isn't impressive, outside of the 17" screen of course. The production car will be available in a couple of months though.

mscottring | 31. Dezember 2011

Mycroft - But most people get that it's a "beta" vehicle, right?

Mycroft | 31. Dezember 2011

Early adopters yes, the general public not so much.

Mycroft | 31. Dezember 2011

The last time I was in Bellevue, I was excited to get in the car again, but once I was in it, I felt like I was wasting my time because nothing was what the final car was going to be.

brianman | 31. Dezember 2011

Did you learn anything new about exterior or roof, etc., while you were there?

mscottring | 31. Dezember 2011

brian, Not sure if your question is for me.

When I went to the factory the issue of "can they build it" and/or "can they do it when they say they can" was relieved. From what I saw the factory was pretty much good to go, save for dies and a few bits here and there.

As far as the car goes, getting a chance to ride in it (although I had been hopeful to drive one) was thrilling. It really is a very nice car, very smooth, very quick and seems to handle transitions well in spite of it's weight and size.

The whole event was extremely positive, as were the news reports on it that followed.

brianman | 31. Dezember 2011

Was for Mycroft, but the more the merrier.

Jason S | 31. Dezember 2011

In mid November I got to visit with the car that the San Mateo office referred to as the 'sound testing vehicle'. It had bits of the dash loose, some chunks missing in trunk, a piece missing from near driver side door, etc. Obviously a test unit placed in the sales floor for the weekend.

Was fun to sit in driver's seat and experience the TERRIBLE cupholder / lack of center console they had in it. Even got to pinch my fingers accidentally with it. =P The glovebox was in terrible shape though. Had to assure the wife that this vehicle was obviously not the production interior.

On the plus side, however, the lights and exterior were quite impressive. The leather interior also showed well. Got to tease one of the sales guys regarding the low ground clearance; evidently it was lowered because it looked better -- I told them people would be able to get in/out of the car much easier if it was raised when stopped as well as when lower speeds. (Seems to me that would be default anyhow)

The sound system was very nice, and it was fun to play with the console. Was also notable that the console has a bunch of functionality effectively crippled on that test vehicle -- no setup screens for bluetooth / wireless, no way to try playing my own music on the stereo. Both are important to my prospective use of the stereo (wireless sync to home music catalog, bluetooth to phone(s) in the car). No way to get to Pandora either.

But it was fun to see and play with the lights.

JohnQ | 31. Dezember 2011

In truth, I'm happy that I haven't attended the factory event or seen a Beta in person. I'm P1491 and excited about the car but the reality is that, until I get a chance to really test drive a production model, I will remain on the fence. I suppose it's because I committed this time last year and knew that everything about the car was subject to change. The back and forth about the design, fit and finish, etc is valuable feedback for Tesla but I'm not getting too worked up about it at this point (other than having expressed my opinions to Tesla).

When I do test drive the production model I'll also be test driving a few other cars including the A7 and 530i. I tend to keep cars for 10 years or so (9 years now on my current car) abnd don't want to make a mistake I'll regret. Once I see how it stacks up against the competitors I can make a final decision.

Mycroft | 31. Dezember 2011

"Did you learn anything new about exterior or roof, etc., while you were there?"

Nope. They couldn't even open the pano roof.

CIAOPEC | 31. Dezember 2011

In my opinion the exterior is an absolute stunner. I had the opportunity to sit in the black beta (Santana Row store) just a few days ago (would be happy to post a picture but apparently im clueless on how to within the forum).

Pictures do not do this car justice (IMO). For instance the hip over the rear quarter is a very nice character detail that is lost in a 2-D rendering. I might be a bit infatuated with the design though. She (the model S) is seductive (just like my beautiful wife :-)). Isn't this the feeling you should have when buying a performance/luxury/revolutionary EV? I think Tesla has done an incredible job with the exterior. The model S is modern enough without being too crazy and impractical (BMW i3 comes to mind).

I'm in the group that understands these are beta/test vehicles so the complaints about the interior fit and finish are unjustified to a large degree. The forum comments (both negative and positive) provide Tesla with potentially valuable market research so they should continue and be encouraged.

I share concern about the 17" screen integration and lack of center console however I have faith in Tesla, they will get it sorted before delivery. If the engineering prowess of the exterior and driveline/chasis design is carried over to the interior Tesla will succeed. Excellent reliability will also be needed. Wow, no wonder building cars is a tough industry to be in.

If you are a reservation holder and you have not yet seen the vehicle in person you owe yourself a look.

I'm bullish in TSLA

Mycroft | 31. Dezember 2011

You can join Photobucket free and use them to hose the pictures.

I agree with you on the exterior styling. The Audi A7 is *very* similar overall, but I'm thinking the newer Nissan Altimas are closer in the rear.

Teoatawki | 31. Dezember 2011

I totally didn't get the point of the "beta" car currently in Bellevue. Interior fit and finish was crap, seats apparently not final, pseudo-prototype console. I've made cabinets and furniture. Trust me, I could do better. No visors, no glove box. All they could definitively show was the display and the exterior.

CIAOPEC | 01. Januar 2012

Thanks Mycroft, I'll look into Photobucket for picture hosting.

I like the A7 but don't care for the "pinched" rear end. I know the folks at CNET liked it (the A7) choosing it as their Car of the Year.

David den Boer | 01. Januar 2012

I am posting my pics of three different beta visit trips in the last two months (first to Menlo Park, second and third to Santana Row). I saw three different cars over the course of the visits, and noticed many differences along the way.

You will notice from the pics that I pretty much only took pics of the things that were finished -- I did not want my wife to see the unfinished parts, of which there were many on the three different cars (often with parts falling off the interior). Does this change my mind -- not one bit. In fact, if all works out on Tuesday, I will upgrade to a Sig.

The pics are available here:
Model S Beta Gallery

If you have pics of unique things you noticed, please post them here so we can all share!

David den Boer | 01. Januar 2012

BTW, after sitting in the car with my kids tonight and looking through the pano roof with them, there is no way that I am NOT getting that roof. It is killer!

phb | 02. Januar 2012

Wow, thanks for posting the photos! Were you able to have your kids sit in the jump seats? If so, what was the reaction?

cybercop | 02. Januar 2012

My 9 year old sat in the jump seat and we shut the back. It is definitely for younger (ok, shorter) kids. His head was just about touching the rear window. He said it was weird having his face up against the glass. I will have to measure to see how tall he is, but I definitely would not let him sit back there.

phb | 02. Januar 2012

My kids are currently 4 and 2 so I'm hoping to be able to put them in the jump seats if needed for a few years although most of the time they'll probably be in car seats in the rear seats.

CIAOPEC | 02. Januar 2012

@David den Boer , thanks for the pics of the Model S.

You should know that your entire photo album is available for public view (not limited to the Tesla pictures). This is a major flaw with MobileMe gallery sharing.

mscottring | 02. Januar 2012

Sort of off the subject, but on the exterior design perspective. At least two of my friends keep trying to push me into a BMW. I've owned one before, good cars. My issue is the basic look of them. What I'm looking for is something along the lines of the CLS, A7, Panamera look. In my view the Model S does a good job of creating a good deal of interior space and comfort, while still having an attractive, stylish, modern and aerodynamic design.

I guess I'm just tired of the standard, "here's your hood, four doors and trunk" look. It's time for something more forward looking.

Andrew18 | 02. Januar 2012

Well said

ddruz | 04. Januar 2012

Since there is no normal hood under which these things usually reside would someone who has seen the beta be able to answer these admittedly naive questions for me?

1. Where is the windshield wiper fluid access/reservoir?
2. Where / how do you check brake fluid?
3. How does a service person access the engine and ac/dc converter?
4. Is there any coolant fluid that needs checking? If so where is it accessed?
5. What are the expected service checks for the car?

Thanks kindly.

Mycroft | 04. Januar 2012

Most of that stuff is probably under the plastic cowling around the frunk.

The expected service is going to be annual at a Tesla service center or by a roving "Ranger". Not a DIY type of thing.

phb | 04. Januar 2012

The drive system is tucked between the rear wheels and accessible from underneath the car.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGKqPYvtqXE

ddruz | 07. Januar 2012

@Mycroft and phb: Thank you for the information. Very helpful.

One more question: Can anyone who has seen the beta comment on the headroom with and without the panoramic roof in both the front and rear seats? Do you get more headroom with or without the pano roof?

Thanks!

Mycroft | 07. Januar 2012

Since they haven't shown a car without a pano roof, that's impossible to say at this time. They should have better dimensions by the time test drives have begun, so you can decide at that point if the car without a pano roof has too little headroom.

mscottring | 07. Januar 2012

David, I'm wondering, would the link to your pics work if I took it out of this forum and shared it? Those pics are great, and really deserve a wider audience.

Volker.Berlin | 07. Januar 2012

mscottring, yes it'll work, whether or not that is intended by David.

Discoducky | 07. Januar 2012

@ddruz...I'm 6'1" and when sitting in the back seat and I sit up as straight as possible and as far back as possible I can just touch my head to the roof.

If I'm in a comfortable position I have about 4" of space and I'm not slouching for what it's worth, but YMMV.

CIAOPEC | 07. Januar 2012

I'm 6'2"

When I was sitting in the Santana Row black beta I had a nice sense of space. More room than my wife's Mercedes E320 ( front and rear). When or if a center console is added ( hope so) I imagine the space may condense a bit but I can't imagine it not feeling roomy.

My only complaint/observation was a short seat cushion where thigh support was lacking. My hope is Tesla's final seat spec is yet to be revealed. I cannot speak to headroom in the Model S without the pano roof however I can't recall touching the roof in either the front or rear. I'll admit there's a lot to take in when you see the car for the first time so during my next visit I'll be a bit more critical.

Mark K | 08. Januar 2012

Just sat in a Beta Sig in Los Angeles.

First off - we must calibrate our perceptions based on the contemporary build method. These Betas are hand built cars with lots of prototype parts (particularly the interior). As such, the fit and finish are never comparable to the quality you can expect from production tooling. That's pretty normal for a preproduction sample.

Lots of minor details are inoperative - like the door handles, trunk latches, pano roof, etc. Plenty of work to be done to get that stuff ready for production, but all of it low-octane (pardon my EV oxymoron) relative to the admirable engineering achievements on the drive train and structure.

Since we're used to seeing only production cars in showrooms, you have to squint to look past those distractions.

That said, here are some impressions -

The exterior looks pretty in pictures, but it is even more compelling when it's poised in front of you. The overall proportions and sculpting of the lines are brilliant.

Every now and then a design concept hits the sweet spot - the ideal balance of scale, form and functional purpose - where it sort of resonates. I think the Tesla team hit that mark with the S.

The car is very taught, with a great tension between its athletic strength and sensual sweep.

But what really impresses is that this beautiful shape delivers an amazingly practical vehicle. The cavernous roominess inside seems to emerge from some mysterious wormhole in space-time that is unconstrained by the lithe exterior.

This is a car not just to gaze upon, but to use ... every day, with comfort, and with ease. A car that is lean and quick enough to squirt through traffic, but spacious enough to be home on wheels for the family. Yet even in the back seat, you have the sense of being in a sports car.

At the core, it is the intelligence of the architecture that creates all this bounty. The Engineering ethic to leverage all the design liberty only a pure EV can offer. In my view, the architecture is in fact equal to our shamefully lofty expectations for the car that looks to be the game changer for EV's.

As to the interior details, here are my thoughts -

I've read many criticisms of a sundry interior design details - from low brow seats, to fixed headrests etc. Here's where I come out.

On the whole, there is a lot of very smart innovation and genuine flourish on the interior design. I admire the originality and clean, graceful flow of the door panels - with their indirect LED downlighting, and cleverly integrated door latch pulls.

The seats have artifacts of proto-grade execution (imperfect cushioning etc.) so they don't compare to a production Mercedes right now, but that should hopefully resolve with the real deal. From a design perspective though, the seat contours and integral headsets seem fine.

So most of interior nit comments seem overly picky or due to proto artifacts. What I do think needs work though is the dash / center console. It's choppy.

The big screen and dearth of buttons are great, and very coherent with the technological sea change message that this car represents. Those choices are smart.

But that screen is not well integrated into the rest of the dash, and seems bluntly spliced in place without nice transitions.

The big void where there is no center console doesn't read to me as spacious, but rather as skimpy. Functionally, it does not add up for me either. I can't put my feet there, and I won't put a leather case or daypack there since they'd flop over the low rails into the pedal well area. My elbow hits a cup in the holder and I've got no support for my arm if I'm browsing the screen with my fingers. It needs a console that flows up to and anchors the base of the screen, and then everything will click. There's so much good design in this car that this blemish is the rare spot that makes me wince.

Minor point about finishes - the banana leaf sounds great in concept, but in practice it's not too cool. It is a very stark, very busy, high contrast stripey pattern that adds alot of visual noise to the cabin instead of warming it up. It kind of cheapens it by looking like a Formica faux-wood counter at a Pinkberry instead of a subtly refined high quality wood. Figured maple is quite beautiful, and comes from a sustainable farmed tree. Provide an alternative finish here, and let folks choose what makes them happy.

To sum up, this car is killer gorgeous. Refine the dash/console with some modest updates, and then nothing will spoil the beautiful picture when you sit in the driver's seat.

Teoatawki | 08. Januar 2012

If they don't come up with a better idea for a console, I'll build by own. And while I'm at it, remote the drive/reverse/park switch to the console if they keep the shift lever on the steering assembly.

Hmmm... Maybe pay for some upgrades on a Model X for my wife building and installing consoles like Tesla should have made.

Naah... I'd rather TM just got it right.

JoeFee | 08. Januar 2012

RE the banana leaf. My ride in Oct and wood sample on site was much higher quality then the black beta that I sat in Newport Beach which was, as Mark K describes above, very poor (probably the same car).

Brian H | 08. Januar 2012

@Mark;
Very thorough, lots of expressive rhetoric! A couple of edit quibbles, so you can copy/paste it elsewhere without fear:

"EV oxymoron" -- that's a contradictory phrase, like "partly unique", or "military intelligence". EV analogy, perhaps.

"Very taught" -- it can't learn, so it's "taut" --> tension.

"EV's" -- just EVs works fine. Save the apostrophe-s for singular noun possessives (not already ending in 's') and abbreviation of "is" or "has".

Nice blend of formal and colloquial, by the way. Gets your points across pretty well!

Really leaves the clear sense of the hunger of the Tesla/S fans and reservation-holders to have the inside be worthy of the outside. A formidable challenge, it seems!

@Teo;
A quirky/fun thought: the first (and almost immediate) Tesla after-market support service/industry: custom Model S consoles! Choice of 5 designs, in 3 colors, available online, $200 - $999.
:D

Brian H | 08. Januar 2012

With a side-line in front license-plate holders. :)

Brian H | 08. Januar 2012

Legal eagle question: If a CA driver is out-of-state, and removes his front plate for the duration, can he be ticketed?

Volker.Berlin | 08. Januar 2012

I have got a technical drawing with detailed exterior and interior measurements up here:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6637949/Pano_export.jpg
(1.5 MB, 4600x1600 px)

This drawing was exposed at the Oct 1 event in Fremont. I have no idea if it reflects the actual measures of the production vehicle, or if it has foremost decorative value and is otherwise out of date. So look at it at your own risk!

Volker.Berlin | 08. Januar 2012

But what really impresses is that this beautiful shape delivers an amazingly practical vehicle. The cavernous roominess inside seems to emerge from some mysterious wormhole in space-time that is unconstrained by the lithe exterior. (Mark K)

:-D
Suffering fanboy syndrome...? ;-)

Brian H | 08. Januar 2012

Yowza! That Oct. 1 technical drawing has some odd features. Why do the 4° and 5° 'downvision' sight lines emanate from the driver's chin? And that giant in the back seat doesn't have much footwell room; his knees are cocked and a small bump will drive his head into the roof!
Heh.

Brian H | 08. Januar 2012

Mark;
I guess your "low-octane" is indeed a kind of EV oxymoron, though more of a pleonasm (redundancy). No carbon chains, 8C or other, in battery power! High-octane rhetoric is so tricksy!
;-/

Brian H | 08. Januar 2012

No combusting carbon chains, I should have said. Nanotube electrodes etc. are likely to involve super-long carbon chains.

Mycroft | 08. Januar 2012

Mark, excellent write-up that matches my impressions. I too like real wood grain interiors and I was disappointed when there wasn't that option. Fortunately, they came out with the carbon fiber accents that I do like.

The skateboard design with the entire drivetrain between the rear wheels is the true quantum wormhole IMO. The frickin car runs on magic!!!

Teoatawki | 08. Januar 2012

@Volker,
But what really impresses is that this beautiful shape delivers an amazingly practical vehicle. The cavernous roominess inside seems to emerge from some mysterious wormhole in space-time that is unconstrained by the lithe exterior. (Mark K)

Forget the 88 mph issues, it's a TARDIS!

@Brian H,
More like $499-$1499 + $250 for matching leather. I'm confident the companies making tow hook license plate holders will provide a mod S version for under $100.

I'm sure you COULD be ticketed for "improper display" in another state, but you'd have to make it worth their while, like 60mph in a school zone, or something else serious. Or a speed trap town where 75% of their revenue comes from traffic fines.

Robert.Boston | 08. Januar 2012

Who has seen the lacewood trim in person? Impressions?

Mark K | 08. Januar 2012

Some responses followed by thoughts on the interior -

@Brian H - Thanks for the meticulous proofreading. Imperfect prose is a hazard of posting from an iPad while horizontal and dozing off. Just felt moved to convey what struck me when I saw the Beta a few hours earlier.

@Volker - Your posts are prolific and productive. To earn a fanboy badge from you is a major high-five :)

That many of us obsess a little is a sign of really giving a damn what happens here. This machine, and this time, are kind of pivotal.

When we criticize to encourage improvement, I feel obliged to credit Tesla's awesome work on so many fronts. When your product is very public, comments run the gammut from unreasonable rants to authentic insights. Being honest and precise lets Tesla sort it out intelligently.

@Teoatawki - Totally, dude. If the Time Lords or Doc Brown were to build their time machines post-Model S, they would have seriously upgraded from the London Bobby Box and DeLorean as starting points.

About the interiior-

I tell novitiates on our Engineering teams to never be shy about telling the truth, good or bad; and above all, to put love into the doing, or find something else where you can. To do something ... anything, that's truly great, you've got to be all in. I see many palpable signs of that culture in Tesla's cadre.

If it were a matter of our personal satisfaction, some of us on this forum do have the means to actually redesign and build those interior parts that fall short. But this passionate debate transcends personal interest, we want Tesla to win in the bigger arena.

Elon, it comes down to this: You can't make money if you don't ship. Endless revisions are your enemy, but so too is mediocrity. Profit is essential to power this change, but it's clear that you are doing this for something much more profound than money.

Teasing the magic balance out of those classic conflicts is very very hard, and something few can do. But those who can, must. Your track record says you've got the juice for it.

The simple calculus is:

Get the interior right, and you'll win more than the eco fringe. You'll snag some mainstream 5 and 7 series buyers, and that will force the big guys to follow suit. Sell more cars = compel more change.

The folks rooting for this don't want to see you stumble. Refine the interior and you'll hit the ball out of the park.

Soflauthor | 08. Januar 2012

@Mark K wrote: Get the interior right, and you'll win more than the eco fringe. You'll snag some mainstream 5 and 7 series buyers, and that will force the big guys to follow suit. Sell more cars = compel more change.

The folks rooting for this don't want to see you stumble. Refine the interior and you'll hit the ball out of the park.

You have it exactly right, Mark. In some ways, the interior is more important that the exterior. It's where the driver 'lives' as he/she uses the car. For prospective buyers, it clearly demonstrates a richness in Tesla's design thinking. That's why high-end ICE vehicles have such solidly designed interiors. It's why everything is integrated properly, why the design has symmetry, why a center console moves from the dash toward the rear seats, providing a cocoon for the driver. It's all about fine materials, thoughtful placement, and functionality.

Get it right, TM. And if the interior is now final, take one more look. If it's still not right, don't settle. You're betting your company on this.

brianman | 09. Januar 2012

@Mark K
If you're not doing some form of writing professionally, consider moonlighting as a reviewer.

:)

kafahsholtz | 10. Januar 2012

A couple of quick comments - I wrote about headroom in another thread, but my family (5 of us) is on the tall side(I'm 6'3"), 5 of us fit in the car (beta version in Bellevue).

I'm a reservation holder (and glorified product manager) while also a bit of a car geek. That being said, comparing this to a BMW 5-Series is a bit apples/oranges. I'm speaking in generalities here, not having the time to really do a comprehensive study, but when looking at price comparisons, over 120,000 miles, the Tesla I'm optioning out (comes to $69,500 at this point after federal tax credit) is equivalent to a $40k Suburban, a bit more (at the noise level) than a $35k Honda Minivan, and about $20k less than a BMW 5-series (with comparative performance). Sure, I'll only be able to drive 230 or so miles (I'm betting it will be more like 250 with areodynamic tires), without recharging, but that happens to me like once a year (trip to Idaho), so I'll either take my time, or the Suburban. And I find BMWs a bit of a cliche, especially in Seattle, even more so on the Eastside. Oh, my brother in law recently purchased an Kia Optima (with leather and panoramic sunroof), which works about to be about $25k less than the Tesla over 120,000 miles. But it's a Kia...

dborn @nsw.au | 10. Januar 2012

I have seen the Lacewood in person and it did nothing for me. Basically bumpy matt black panels. (a bit of texture). If I was going for black, i would go for the piano black finish, but I am not. The banana leaf is interesting because it is very "different". I think one could get very tired of it in time.
I too would vote for a more conventional wood grain finish. This is a Californian car, so in that spirit, Californian redwood would go beautifully with tan or white, but the much lighter timbers such as European white ash and maple will also look stupendous, i believe. Both of these woods have great figure and would really set off the interior.

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